Sunday, 1 March 2015

Finding myself lying underneath Madonna, but actually it was Annabel who made it such a Perfect Day

By the time I became a teenager Pop Art had almost been and gone.  I was living in London at the time and by the late sixties, the works of the likes of Roy Lichtenstein, Billy Apple, and of course Andy Warhol were instantly recognisable, had achieved cult status, and grown exponentially in value. Pop Art and Surrealism remain my two 2 great art favourites. By the time I was 17 years of age I was taking a Walk on the Wild Side with the likes of radical rock and roll musician Lou Reed, and Lou Reed's mentor was of course, Andy Warhol.

I mention this as Andy Warhol was credited with the expression '15 minutes of fame' – well it's reported that what he actually said was, 'in the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes'. I enjoyed my 15 minutes of fame last week! Early Wednesday morning saw me at the BBC studios at Media City Salford. I was there to be interviewed live on BBC Radio Manchester about the news 'leaked' late on Tuesday night by some rather over eager local councillors that the Great Manchester health and social care budget was to be brought together as part of so called 'Devo Manc' – and the creation of a Northern Powerhouse, and the regional, political and economic devolution of the North West from Whitehall’s control and influence.

It was proposed that the budgets currently being held by 10 Local Authorities and 12 NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups were brought together under the control of a new body responsible for nearly £6 billion worth of funding which will be used to provide integrated health and social care for the 2.7 million population of Great Manchester. This new body would be formed from NHS England, NHS Providers, Local Authorities and Clinical Commissioning Groups. Fears were being expressed about this being the start of the breakup of the UK NHS, and there were reported anxieties over whether locally elected counsellors were capable of making the right decisions. However, I was delighted with what I considered to be a ground breaking decision.

Being interviewed live on the radio was a new experience, but it went well.  It was strange to hear the recording being played again an hour later and then again throughout the day. But that was just the start of my 15 minutes of fame. Soon after finishing the recording my mobile started ringing with researchers, producers and so on all wanting to record my thoughts and comments for various programmes – the BBC didn't seem to be very joined up in the communication stakes, although my mobile number seemed to be freely available. Despite much filming and recording during the day, at the end of the day I only had 2 TV appearances.

After spending 20 minutes being filmed on a very windy Media City piazza BBC North West Tonight (NWT) used just 35 seconds of the recording in a 4.28 minute long report in their 18.30, and 22.30 shows. NWT has a nightly audience of over 1.5 million viewers. Radio 4 World at One (the most prestigious radio shows to get onto apparently) dropped my interview 5 minutes before going live in favour it seems of speaking to someone called Andy Burnham, (I'm told he is a Labour MP). I guess all is fair in love, war and radio politics.

However, I did get to be interviewed on the BBC News channel. This was a live interview so slightly more anxiety provoking. This time there was a longer on screen presence (all of 3.17 minutes). The programme enjoys a much larger viewing figure. Last Wednesday it was 3.8 million viewers! These were very unexpected opportunities to share my thoughts about the really good work that has been going on in the North West to bring the most effective integrated health and social care services to the whole population.  It was a real privilege as well, and if I am going to be absolutely honest, I thought it was a great buzz too.

I got up the following morning to find that the previous evening someone called Madonna had fallen off the stage or something during her Brit Awards performance.   I and the ‘Devo Manc’ story were beginning to look like old news. Momentarily I was sad realising that just 24 hours after my 15 minutes of fame I was lying under Madonna on the public interest scale. I was however buoyed up by the memory of catching a glimpse of Annabel Tiffin the day before. 

Annabel is the main presenter and producer for NWT. When I was first asked to appear on NWT to discuss the ‘Devo Manc’ story it was to do a live interview. So I was quite excited by the prospect it might be Annabel I was sharing the red sofa with. In my mind (and I am sure many others) Annabel occupies a place that perhaps other thinking men in the past might have seen filled by the likes of Joan Bakewell, Felicity Kendal, Nigella Lawson, Joanna Lumley, Carol Vorderman and Helen Mirren.  Alas it wasn't to be. The live interview was replaced by a recorded interview. On the day, as I waited on Floor 2 of the Quay House, Annabel did walk past me, but by the time I realised and jumped up to say hello, she was gone, and that one glimpse was all I got. However, all in all, as Lou Reed might have said, last Wednesday was such a Perfect Day!